Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership



Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership


MODULES: R11 - Historical Research



A procedures supplementary to observation in which the researcher seeks to test the authenticity of the reports or observations made by others.

The historical method is employed by researchers who are interested in reporting events and/or conditions that occurred in the past. An attempt is made to establish facts in order to arrive at conclusions concerning past events or predict future events.

Steps to Follow

  • Isolate the problem
  • Collect source materials, including primary and secondary sources
  • Evaluate source material
  • Formulate hypotheses
  • Report and interpret findings

Primary Sources of Information - Direct outcomes of events or the records of eyewitnesses

  • Original documents
  • Relics
  • Remains
  • Artifacts

Secondary Sources of Information - Information provided by a person who did not directly observe the event, object, or condition

  • Textbooks
  • Encyclopedias
  • Newspapers
  • Periodicals
  • Review of research and other references

External Criticism - Asks if the evidence under consideration is authentic. The researcher checks the genuineness or validity of the source. Is it what it appears or claims to be? Is it admissible as evidence?

Internal Criticism - After the source is authenticated, it asks if the source is accurate, was the writer or creator competent, honest, and unbiased? How long after the event happened until it was reported? Does the witness agree with other witnesses?

Establishing the Genuineness of a Document of Relic

  • Does the language and writing style conform to the period in question and is it typical of other work done by the author?
  • Is there evidence that the author exhibits ignorance of things or events that man of his training and time should have known?
  • Did he report about things, events, or places that could not have been known during that period?
  • Has the original manuscript been altered either intentionally or unintentionally by copying?
  • Is the document an original draft or a copy? If it is a copy, was it reproduced in the exact words of the original?
  • If manuscript is undated or the author unknown, are there any clues internally as to its origin?


Checking the Content of a Source of Information

  • What was meant by the author by each word and statement?
  • How much credibility can the author’s statements be given?



  • Statement of hypotheses
  • External and internal criticism of sources
  • Observation and experimentation
  • Technical terminology
  • Generalization and prediction



  • The research is not physically involved in the situation under study.
  • No danger of experimenter-subject interaction.
  • Documents are located by the researcher, data is gathered, and conclusions are drawn out of sight.



1. Define the historical method of research.

2. List the five steps to be followed in conducting a historical investigation.

3. Differentiate between the following primary and secondary sources by placing an "X" in the blank before each primary source.

______ Original documents







______Reviews of research


4. Define external criticism.

5. Define internal criticism.

6. List six pertinent questions to be considered in establishing the genuineness of a document or relic.

7. List two pertinent questions to be considered when checking the content of a source of information.

8. List five factors to be considered when evaluating historical research.

9. Discuss three advantages of historical research.